Friday, 19 February 2010

Hoover Dam

Just outside of Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, which straddling Nevada and Arizona controls the Colorado River and ensures water gets to much of the desert Southwest. As a secondary benefit, the rush of water generates a lot of electricity.

Visitors to this massive manmade wonder – which was constructed at the height of the Great Depression to provide thousands of jobs - can walk over the Dam’s bridge and use the glorious, golden doored art deco bathrooms. Taking the tour gets you lots of facts and figures, plus a gratuitous use of the word “dam”, ie. “dam tour”, “dam nice”, etc.

Having driven through the sprawl of Las Vegas’ new developments – many of which look empty – we had wondered how such an arid climate could support so many people.

But it’s not just Las Vegas that has the Hoover Dam to thank – Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix are just some of the other places benefiting from this structure.

What they don’t really tell is the other side of the story – who lost out by the building of the dam? The Colorado River was notorious for flooding, but there’s always something that suffers when man intervenes in nature.
Also, there is much trumpeting about how the Southwest became habitable…but is it a good idea to ask the desert to support large populations of humans?

The guide, an official of the federal government, did point out what a vital resource water is, speculating that the next wars would be fought over water. He added that the Hoover Dam is the number 3 terrorist target in the US, behind New York and LA.

As such, there is a lot of security at the dam – checkpoints for cars, x-ray machines for people and their bags, and the officials get very upset if anyone strays. A new road is being built a bit further from the dam, so that non-tourist traffic doesn’t have to go over the main bridge.

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